New RPP zone will extend permit parking to 29th St.
Next stop in process will be City Planning Commission hearing
Interest in the city's Residential Permit Parking (RPP) Program is keen, for and against, as demonstrated by the attendance at the June 26 Parking Enforcement Management Plan meeting at the Emmaus Center in South Side.
A standing room only crowd heard City planner Ashley Holloway, RPP administrator, explain the only object of the meeting was to set the hours and days of enforcement along with the grace period non-resident vehicles would be permitted to park. Jason Phillips, a supervisor for the Pittsburgh Parking Authority was also there to talk about how the permit zone would be enforced.
Mr. Holloway began by saying the new permit parking zone from 22nd to 29th streets on the southern side of East Carson Street has been proposed, but not finalized. Before the RPP zone can go into effect, it first will have a public hearing before the Pittsburgh Planning Commission, be approved by City Council and finally the mayor.
To get to this point, at least 70 percent of residents on a street-face had to sign a petition saying they were in favor of permit parking. Mr. Holloway and his staff then surveyed the area to determine if at least 75 percent of the parking spaces were filled and at least 15 percent of the spaces were taken by commuters or cars with out-of-state license plates.
Enforcement hours for RPP are determined by the residents of the zone and can be anytime from 7 a.m. to midnight with up to a two hour grace period from Monday through Saturday. In the entire city, only two districts have enforcement until 9 p.m. There are only three districts with enforcement hours as late as midnight and two of those are in South Side.
He said enforcement could be erratic after 5 p.m. because there are only two parking enforcement officers assigned exclusively to work permit parking areas from 5 p.m. to midnight. Those officers don't monitor the lots or garages, only the RPP zones with extended hours.
Due to safety concerns and union regulations, the officers on evening enforcement duty are required to work in pairs.
Mr. Phillips added there are two additional officers patrolling parking lots after 6 p.m. that may be pulled into service in a RPP zone if there are complaints during enforcement hours.
He pointed out since South Side already has two of the three RPP zones with enforcement hours until midnight, if this became the third one they would most likely enforce all three zones simultaneously. To do this, the officers drive a vehicle equipped with two cameras which are able to read license plate numbers.
License plates not registered in the district are automatically timed when the vehicle passes them. At the end of the grace period, the car makes another pass through the district and an alarm sounds if it comes across a vehicle parked there too long. The officers then check the vehicle for a visitor's pass, if there isn't one a citation is issued.
The fine for parking in a Residential Permit Parking zone without a permit or visitor's pass is $45.
On a 12 month basis, residents are permitted to purchase a permit for $20 for each vehicle of everyone who lives in the home. They can also purchase one visitor's pass for $1 per year. Visitor's passes may only be used for up to three consecutive days on the same vehicle and may not be used by the owner of the pass.
Residents with visitors staying with them may also call the Parking Authority and request a variance for their vehicle for the duration of their visit.
Mr. Holloway pointed out since only three unrelated persons are permitted to live in one household only three unrelated people in one residence are eligible to purchase parking passes for their vehicles.
"If there are four roommates and they're all unrelated, only three of them will be able to buy permits," he said.
Businesses in the district are permitted one parking pass and one visitor's pass.
Residents in a RPP zone can call the Parking Authority and ask for a variance if they are having some kind of event during enforcement hours. There is no enforcement on Sundays and holidays.
Mr. Phillips said they are considering being able to apply for parking variances on line, but no decision has been made at this time.
Mr. Holloway was questioned by a resident from one of the "donut holes" in the permit parking zone whether she and her husband would be able to get parking permits. The donut holes occurred on several blocks where not enough residents signed petitions in favor of permit parking.
Those residents were notified by mail a second time by Mr. Holloway in a letter stating if they were not part of the area, parking on their block would be open to anyone. It was also noted there is no parking on their street during trash collection days and they wouldn't be able to park in the RPP district if they didn't reconsider.
"This is a resident driven program, this is something the residents will have to do I can't force it on them," he said. "You're welcome to get on the waiting list and petition again if you want."
In answer to the resident's question, she wouldn't be able to get a permit even though she was in favor of the permit parking.
Mr. Phillips added those residents will only be able to park in the rest of the RPP zone for the amount of time of the grace period.
What about businesses?
A gentleman in the audience asked Mr. Holloway why they discriminate against businesses.
"When this program was set up in 1981 by city council it was geared to help the residents in areas with large institutions like a hospital or a university. It wasn't meant for neighborhoods like the South Side," the city planner replied.
"But since it was a city service it has to be available to everyone not just people who live in Oakland or people that live in Shadyside areas or Lawrenceville. So because of that and because of the parking situation going on, anybody in the City of Pittsburgh has a legal right to petition for the program."
The man still maintained it was discrimination because if a business rents a building in the RPP zone, they are still only entitled to one parking permit and one visitor's pass no matter how many employees work there.
Mr. Holloway said he didn't really have an answer for the man, the program was the way city council set it up in 1981. He is looking at the code that created the program, at the time city council didn't consider if there were construction workers in the neighborhood, whether people had a nanny coming in or a maid or butler.
"I am trying to look at the code. Look at best practices and see what is best for the city. There probably isn't one answer. There will probably be someone slighted because of this, but this program is mainly meant to help the residents," he said.
The man continued he didn't think it was fair that his building takes up a whole block and he was paying city taxes and the company renting the building pays city taxes and employees pay city taxes, but he'll only get one parking permit.
"Through the daytime, I've been there many, many years and it's always been very easy to find a spot. So I don't even see what the problem is," he added.
Mr. Holloway said the city doesn't distinguish between a homeowner and a renter. Furthermore, he continued, even if they are a homeowner, taxpayer or renter the city isn't obligated to provide parking.
"Even with this program, no one is guaranteed a parking space," he said. As administrator of the program he still gets calls from residents complaining they're in a permit parking area and can't find a space to park.
"That's because ultimately there's too many cars and not enough spaces on the street," he said.
Hours of enforcement
After more discussion of residents and businesses views of how bad the parking situation was in the neighborhood, Mr. Holloway brought it back on the topic of deciding what the enforcement hours would be. He didn't recommend they ask for 7 a.m. to midnight. Those hours were proposed for another RPP zone in South Side and were rejected by the Planning Commission.
Currently in South Side, the other RPP districts have hours of 12 noon to 12 midnight with a two-hour grace period.
Mr. Holloway pointed out District 3 Councilman Bruce Kraus also has the power to amend enforcement hours of the district. Although, it has happened only once, with a councilman from the lower Hill District, since the program was instituted in 1981.
He said there are alternatives for nearby businesses and patrons of the nighttime economy at the SouthSide Works where there are five parking garages with a total of 2,347 spots. He acknowledged those were all paid parking spaces that would be hard to fill with people who were used to parking for free.
As far as enforcement goes, Mr. Phillips explained when the officers come into the neighborhood they won't be just enforcing permit parking, they'll be enforcing all parking laws.
"If you had been parking in front of the fire hydrant in front of your house for the last 35 years you will very quickly learn that is not going to continue," he said. "This is not just about residential parking, it's about parking."
Several residents referenced the parking blitz the police performed on South Side over a year ago and commented their approval.
Mr. Phillips replied if they match the hours of the other two RPP districts in South Side, they very well may see something similar with the exception that the Parking Authority "won't tow your car."
As for how often they will be in the zone, he said there are more permit areas than officers so they may not be patrolled every day. However, there are other things that affect how often: "the squeaky wheel" gets more enforcement; more violators means more enforcement; and, new areas initially get more enforcement.
To a question about being able to have someone come in to take care of a sick relative, Mr. Phillips said the Parking Authority can issue a Medical Variance for a month at a time. A note from a doctor explaining why the help is needed is required by the authority to receive the variance. Multiple caregivers can be covered under the same variance.
After more discussion about hours of enforcement, four different sets of hours were proposed to be voted on by the audience: 2 p.m.-midnight; 4 p.m.-midnight; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. and noon – midnight. A clear majority of those at the meeting chose the hours of noon to midnight, Monday through Saturday with a two-hour grace period.
The process now moves to the Pittsburgh Planning Commission for a public hearing on July 22 at 2 p.m. at 200 Ross Street, Downtown. Those who would like to speak will be given three minutes to comment.
If approved by the Planning Commission, it will have to be passed by City Council and finally go on to the mayor for final approval.